Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Combed Out My Dreads

Do I have to cut my dreads off? No. Can I brush them out? Yes! How? Lots of patience!

Why'd I comb my dreads out?
Multiple reasons. In part, for the same reason I put them in: I was bored with having the same hairstyle, and I wanted a change. My dreads were short (they had finally started to grow instead of shrink, but of course, dreads don't grow very quickly!), so I didn't have many styling options, and I really wanted styling options!

My one-year-old backcombed dreads.
Which leads me into another reason I brushed them out: I missed all the girly aspects of not having dreads. I missed brushing my hair (despite the fact that I rarely brushed it before I had dreads--my hair is naturally very straight and doesn't need much help to stay that way), braiding it, styling it, etc.  If my dreads had been long enough for me to style in fun updos, I might not have missed those things so much.

And finally, I brushed my dreads out because they weren't set up in a way I thought I could maintain for years. The back dreads were really thick--almost two inches or more in diameter--so they were heavy, even though they were short, and they took all day to dry completely (the thinner ones near my face only took a few hours). Also, I had tons of loose hairs which, even after a year, refused to find a home.

Was combing out my dreads hard?
Yes and no. It took a long, long time. I brushed/combed my hair for several hours every day for over a week. Those knots had been thriving for over year, so they were compact. On the other hand, I put half a bottle of conditioner and half a cup of baby oil in my hair and after that all I really had to do was grab a dread and push a comb through the end of the knot. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat ... for a week.

If you're going to do this, you might as well marathon your favorite tv show while you do.

Holy POOF! I had a serious post-dread fro!
Did it hurt?
Not initially. I was gentle with my hair because I wanted it to come out healthy and unbroken. Since I didn't pull at the comb too hard, I didn't pull on my scalp too hard either. After too many hours of pulling in a row, though, my scalp did start to get sore, so I just stopped and picked up another time.

Was there dirt and guck or spiders in there?
Nope. I washed my dreads whenever my scalp needed it or I'd hung out around fires or anything that might make them smell bad, so when I brushed them out, they were incredibly clean. I'd heard horror stories, so I was a little worried, but I shouldn't have been! (Secretly, this was part of the reason I brushed them out--my curiosity was getting to me, and I wanted to know what the insides looked like.) Now that I know the insides were fine, I would feel comfortable leaving them in for years.

Was my hair damaged by being in dreads for a year?
Honestly, although dreads may look like a potential danger zone for hair, when you stop and think about it, leaving your hair alone for a year is much kinder than some other routes: blow-drying your hair every day, bleaching it, combing and playing with it (which can cause split ends), etc. I had a few split ends at the bottom (which, considering I hadn't cut my hair in a year and a half, is only natural), but other than that, my hair seemed very healthy.

After I brushed my dreads out: good as new!
The only weird result from putting my hair in dreads for a year is that my hair has extra volume it didn't used to have. As you saw in the picture above, I had a serious fro after I brushed my dreads out. Most of the crazy dread-caused texture went away after I washed, conditioned, and brushed it, but my hair hasn't quite returned to its pre-dread state of uber-straight-ness. Now, because it was stuck in knots for a year, my hair has a very slight, microscopic wave/curl to it (like in the fro picture, but less dramatic). The waves are so small that they don't actually make my hair look wavy; they just add volume and texture, which is kind of cool, if you ask me. I expected it to wash out right away, but it hasn't yet (it's been a month). Still, I don't believe it'll last much longer than a chemical perm does: three to six months.

The picture to the above is my hair now. After I brushed the dreads out, I dyed my hair black (a temporary dye, so it's starting to wash out), and did some heavy layering with a razor brush. The waves you can see in this picture are not the texture I was talking about (which is much, much smaller--too small to see unless you're very close); those waves are because I braided my hair after I washed it last night.

Will I ever dread my hair again?
Even as I was brushing out my dreads, I was planning my next set.

For the fun of it, I will probably try the twist-and-rip method this time. Not because I didn't like the backcombing, but because I want to know what the difference would be like. I've seen pictures, and I think they might give me more of a natural look than the backcombing did (the big hair look was what I was going for last time, which is why I picked backcombing, but this time, I'm going to try for something different).

Also, I want smaller sections. I had 45 dreads of varying sizes, and although at first, the thick ones were the most fun, the thin ones ended up being more practical. The thick ones were heavy; they sucked hair out of the dreads next to them, so they kept growing; and they made washing my hair a pain because they took so long to dry (and you always want to let your dreads dry completely before getting them wet again, so you don't get mold or anything disgusting like that growing in your hair).

I want to wait until my hair grows out more, so I can have long dreads. I'm hoping long dreads won't create as many loose hairs, but that may be wishful thinking.